New Zealand’s wine industry is “waking up” to the power of nature’s services, says entomologist and virologist Vaughn Bell.
With backing from SFF Futures Fund, the $91,320 project is led by Picot Productions, with SFF fund contributing more than $59,000. Research expertise is being provided by Plant & Food Research.
The project is expected to bring new employment opportunities to the Northland region by trialling growing peanuts in three locations - Ruawai on a kumara farm, Poutu Peninsula near Dargaville, and on Māori land in the Kai Iwi Lakes district.
"We've selected three locations with different soil types and environments to see where the peanuts grow best," says Declan Graham, business manager - Science at Plant & Food Research, which is managing the project trials.
"A soil temperature of around 18 degrees is ideal," he says. "So, the window for getting the peanuts in the ground and harvesting them is small."
Graham adds that Spanish Hi Oleic peanuts, which have smaller kernels and reddish-brown skinds, have been identified as the most appropriate cultivar for Northland conditions.
"This type of peanut is most widely used in confectionary and snacks, as well as peanut butter production," he says. "Their high oil content makes them ideal for crushing."
However, Graham said the team don't expect the project to be plain sailing. He says they'll need to deal with aspects like weed control and pests.
"But of course, the proof will be in the tasting," Graham says. "It has always felt a little weird to be making an iconic New Zealand product with imported ingredients," says Pic Picot, Picot Productions owner and founder.
"These trials have the potential to make a very real difference to our carbon footprint and redirect the millions of dollars we spend on important nuts to Northland."
Picot says he's excited to be involved in a project that may potentially help the Northland community establish a new industry.